This Isn’t That

Jacob Stern - Ecuador


July 28, 2011

Hello! I’m Jake. My story? Well, I was raised in California and spent the first 13 years of my life in the suburbs and Jewish Day School—the next four were spent in the same suburb and public high school.

OK, that sounds pretty dull. There was definitely fun thrown in here and there.  But, for the most part, that could have been it. I’d go to college for the next four years and get a job afterwards. The “outside world” would be defined be the places I’d travel to on vacations.

I won’t go into detail, but I built Katrina victims’ homes in New Orleans for two summers. And at the end of it I wasn’t myself. I’d discovered a little bit of the world beyond, reacting to real issues on a human level. Katrina victims became my neighbors and friends. Their pain got personal.

Afterwards, I found myself dragging my feet to college. So I looked at Gap Years programs—some promising Adventure, some Immersion. But all I saw were countless facebook photos of teens in fancy European restaurants collectively taking advantage of the national minimum legal drinking age.

This isn’t that. And please click around if you haven’t yet. I’ll live in Ecuador for a year with a host family—first to absorb, then to learn, and after to volunteer—almost a mini peace corps experience.

How is my Spanish, you ask? I can conjugate verbs on worksheet. But beyond that, I couldn’t explain to you something as basic as making a bowl of cereal.

It’ll be a struggle. I expect that. Don’t expect stories about heroic feats of epicness or about changing the “world”. This year is about discovering what that word actually means—about the human experience. And here I will write about me, right in the middle of it, starting to find my place in the world to come.

Jacob Stern